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Evaluate Your Sources

Evaluating your sources and spotting fake sites, fake news and media bias.

What is Media Bias?

Bias is "a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion" about someone or something.

When we discuss bias in media in the US, we are generally referring to conservative (also known as right) v. liberal (also known as left) bias, though there are many more ways to be biased and no one is truly free of bias.

How to Spot Media Bias

When trying to spot media bias, ask yourself these questions: 

1. What kind of information is it?
News? Opinion? Ad? News media can range from fairly unbiased to very biased. Opinion media are biased by definition. Media that are ads will be slanted to encourage you to buy a product. Ask yourself if the media appeals to your emotions or if it makes you think? If it appeals to your emotions, especially anger or outrage, it is more likely to be biased. 
2. Who and what are the sources given and why should you believe them?
Are the sources given? Are the sources scholars or experts on the topic? Are the sources associated with a political party or special interest group? If the sources are given with information on their expertise and associations you are better able to judge possible bias. If no sources are given it makes it very hard for you to judge, which is common with biased media. 
3. What’s the evidence and how was it verified?
What’s the evidence and how was it verified? Is the source a document? Witness? Or is it hearsay/speculation? The more vague that the media is, the more likely it is to be biased. 
4. Is the main point proven by the evidence?
Did the sources provided justify the conclusion or main point of the story? Based media will sometimes present sources and evidence that might seem related but don't actually prove the main point. This technique is known as smoke and mirrors. 

5. Were you encouraged to draw your own conclusion? 
Unbiased media will present evidence and let you draw your own conclusion. Biased media will tell you what to think. 

6. What’s missing?
Was there an aspect or point that was not covered or unclear that you are left wondering about? Was there any evidence presented that supported a possible alternate conclusion or was that left out? Biased media will typically only provide evidence supporting the conclusion that they want you to draw.

Based on American Press Institute.

Bias Example: Travel Ban

These three news sources represent conservative (Human Events), liberal (MSNBC) and centrist (PBS NewsHour) stories on President Trump's travel ban.